"I've heard from people in federal law enforcement, who say that they're still furious at President Obama for commuting Chelsea's Manning's sentence, that when she was sentenced to 35 years, they intended for her to remain in Leavenworth [a prison located in northeast Kansas] for 35 years, not for seven. Of the seven years that she spent at Leavenworth — Leavenworth is a maximum security military prison — two of those years she spent in solitary confinement, and one of those years, was spent nude in solitary confinement because they were worried she was going to use her clothes to commit suicide. So, we are talking about a very rough time in the prison system," Kiriakou, who is also the co-host of the program Loud and Clear on Radio Sputnik, told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackson.
Manning, an ex-US Army intelligence analyst, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2010 for providing hundreds of thousands of military intelligence records to WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization that publishes news leaks and classified media submitted by anonymous sources. She was released from prison in May 2017, having served seven years of her term, after then-US President Barack Obama commuted her sentence. The documents she provided to WikiLeaks included incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and dossiers on prisoners being held without trial at Guantanamo Bay.
Earlier this month, Manning was arrested when a federal judge found her in contempt of court for refusing to respond to any and all questions before a grand jury, after she was subpoenaed to testify in the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
"I object strenuously to this subpoena, and to the grand jury process in general. We've seen this power abused countless times to target political speech … I resent being forced to endanger myself by participating in this predatory practice," she said in a statement.
Assange is currently residing in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, hiding from British authorities that could arrest him for breaching bail conditions from when he was the subject of rape allegations in Sweden. Assange and his team of lawyers believe that if he is arrested, he could later be extradited to the US to face prosecution there, Sputnik previously reported. The case against the WikiLeaks founder has been ongoing for nine years, as US prosecutors have been attempting to determine whether Assange's actions fall under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or the Espionage Act.
"I am very, very pleasantly surprised at the strength and the resolve that Chelsea Manning has exhibited here," Kiriakou told Sputnik.
"Chelsea Manning could have done several different things that would have really been easy for her. She could have testified, although I think you're exactly right when you say that was probably a trap. The feds [US federal agents] are always trying to get people to contradict themselves. And even though time has passed and maybe your memory isn't what it used to be a year, five or 10 years ago, they say, ‘Oh, that's perjury. That's making a false statement. Those are both felony charges.'"
"She could have refused to testify by taking the Fifth [Amendment], which she didn't. Now, she was offered qualified immunity, which would have at least afforded her some protections, not complete protections, in which case, she could have stood before the grand jury and responded to every question with ‘I don't recall.' She did the most difficult thing, but the thing that showed us that she was standing on her principles, and that is that she evoked her rights under the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendments," Kiriakou explained.
The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution outlines the right to not testify against oneself in a trial. However, in a statement March 7, Manning wrote, "Yesterday, I appeared before a secret grand jury after being given immunity for my testimony. All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010 — answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013. I responded to each question with the following statement: ‘I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.'"
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) March 7, 2019
The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects freedoms regarding religion, expression, assembly and the right to petition, while the Fourth Amendment protects the right of people to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects" and against "unreasonable searches and seizures." The Sixth Amendment guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, including the "right to a speedy and public trial."
"Chelsea Manning could have taken the easy way out, but she didn't, despite the fact that solitary confinement has to be killing her, mentally and emotionally after what she has gone through. I have deep respect for her," Kiriakou told Sputnik.
Since March 8, Manning has been placed in solitary confinement at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Virginia.
"Chelsea can't be out of her cell while any other prisoners are out, so she cannot talk to other people or visit the law library and has no access to books or reading material. She has not been outside for 16 days. She is permitted to make phone calls and move about outside her cell between 1 and 3 a.m.," Chelsea Resists!, a support committee for Manning, said in a statement on March 24.
"Barack Obama was the one who waged war on whistleblowers. Between the passage of the Espionage Act in 1917 and Obama's inauguration in 2009, three Americans were charged with espionage for speaking with the media. Just under the Obama administration, eight Americans were charged with espionage for speaking to the media," Kiriakou added.
The Espionage Act of 1917 is a US federal law passed on June 15, 1917, after the US entered World War I.
"So, this was a war waged on whistleblowers by a Democrat, not by the Republicans. I get relatively frequent emails, Facebook messages or phone calls, even from former CIA colleagues, in two instances, from two FBI agents involved in my case and affected my arrest, apologizing to me and saying that they were ordered to do it, the case was political and they felt bad about it all these years and they were sorry. But, they would never say that publicly, because the political climate is such that whistleblowers are the bad guys," Kiriakou added.
"You don't have to like Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning or any other whistleblower to still have respect for what they did and what they stand for. One thing Americans forget is that our elected officials work for us. They are hired help and if we don't like them, we can throw them out. Well, they have to respect the Constitution; they have to respect our rights; they have to respect transparency. If they don't, we can throw them out, and we rely on people like Edward Snowden [the former CIA agent who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013] and Chelsea Manning and other whistleblowers to keep the honest people honest. Because without them, we have our own unique form of fascism, and that isn't acceptable," Kiakou continued.
According to Kiriakou, it's also important to differentiate between leaking and whistleblowing.
"There's a legal definition of whistleblowing, and that is bringing to light evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, illegality or threats to the public health or public safety. That's what a whistleblower does. A leaker just leaks, and the motivation may be self-aggrandizement, it may be revenge, or money or an adrenaline shot. A whistleblower provides information for the public good. The second point is, and this is another problem with the Espionage Act, there has to be a provision for an affirmative defense. Right now, nobody in America, including yours truly, has been permitted by the courts to say, ‘Yes, I provided the information, but I did it for the public good,'" Kiriakou added.